Tips for Transformational Giving

by Patricia Spadaro

transformational_giving_holidaysToday, more than ever, we are showered with media messages vying to convince us that gift-giving is all about buying more and buying bigger. I’ll never forget the sobs that came from a niece of mine one Christmas morning when she had finished unwrapping the two gifts my husband and I had given her, only to see that her sister had an extra package from us to open. She felt cheated, even though we had carefully spent equal amounts of money on them both.

As adults, we may still pull out the measuring stick when it’s time to exchange gifts. Not only that, but we tend to think that “giving” happens when we hand over something that is wrapped and tied with a bow and ribbon.

Yet take a moment and think about the times, as a child or adult, when you felt most happy, joyful, or at peace. Were those special times in your life really defined by how much money someone spent on you? Or was it the attention you received or the intimacy and connection you experienced that made you feel exuberant?

The gift that matters the most is the gift of your attention, your time—your presence. That’s what can turn holidays and celebrations into feasts of the heart.

Here are a few ideas to help you tap the power of presence as you give your gifts:

The present of presence.
Instead of a material gift, why not devote some time, one on one, with the special people in your life as your gift? Enjoy a musical event together or a long lunch or a fun activity—just the two of you. When you’re with the other person, practice being really present, avoiding distractions that are so easy to succumb to. Be sure to turn off your phone or Blackberry and let yourself be fully engaged.

The gift of listening.
If you’ve had a touchy relationship lately, let your present be this: Don’t talk. Listen. Try asking questions that show you truly want to hear what the other person has to say (like “What do you need from me right now?”), and then resist the urge to interrupt.

The power of the generous heart.
Make a date to do something the other person enjoys, even if you don’t. If you know your friend, partner, parent, child, or spouse likes to listen to choral music or attend a football game or watch a silly movie, even though it absolutely bores you, do it anyway this once. Throw yourself into the experience. After all, it’s a gift. It’s not about what you’re doing; it’s about what you’re experiencing together and how it makes that person in your life feel.

The gift you give yourself will help others.
“What do I want?” That’s not something we often ask ourselves at Christmastime when we’re busy taking care of others. Try giving yourself something in the middle of all the busyness. If you give to yourself—even if it’s just a little precious time alone, permission to say no to attending one more holiday party, treating yourself to a movie no one else wants to see with you, or even wrapping up a gift you buy for yourself and putting it under the tree—you’ll be doing everyone in your life a favor. You’ll be a much happier person to be around when you honor yourself!

Try one or more of these tips and share your results with us . . .

Is Giving a Gift Always the Best Choice?

by Patricia Spadaro

P2070238You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give. —Kahlil Gibran

Let’s face it—many of us are still rushing around to buy the people we love the most their holiday gifts, huffing and puffing all the way.  Here’s a story that’s a perfect reminder of why getting a physical gift for someone may not always be the best choice. We have so much more to give…

Margaret has been operating for most of her life on the premise that the time we share with a friend is far more important than giving or getting a physical gift. Born and raised in Ireland, she grew up in an environment where children, not adults, received gifts for holidays. One year, Margaret explained how she felt about gift-giving to Sandra, a co-worker who had become a good friend. Margaret pulled her new friend aside and bluntly told her: “It’s time for me to give you the lecture I give all my friends. Don’t get me a Christmas present or a birthday present, because I don’t want one. What am I going to do with more things? If you want to go out to lunch with me, that’s fine because then we get to spend time together. But if you get me a gift, you’ll just have to work harder to pay for it—and then you’ll have even less time to spend with me.”

It was Sandra who shared this story with me. “I actually felt relieved when I heard this,” she admitted, “and I appreciated my friendship with Margaret even more.” Sandra went on to tell me that a few years ago for Christmas, she had decided to do something similar. She told her relatives and close friends that instead of buying them material gifts, she wanted to spend some time alone with them. “It was the best Christmas I ever had,” she recalled, smiling. “I was able to spend time with all my favorite people and I wasn’t rushing around shopping. I didn’t even go to the mall once!”

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to be a good giver. It’s your inner gifts, the ones that touch another, heart to heart, that are the most precious offerings.

(Story taken from “Honor Yourself: The Inner Art of Giving and Receiving”)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Just this week a young mother with three small children told me a similar story that reflected her values: “My husband  and I are choosing to work less so we can spend more time with our children rather than buying them lots and lots of stuff, which they don’t really need. We want to give our children as much time and attention as we can right nowwhen it’s most important.”

Not all of us have the option of working less, but we all face a similar decision point: What’s more important—spending quality time with the people who mean the most to me?  Or spending time away from the people I love to make more money or do the things I think I’m supposed to be doing to get ahead?

(And by the way, that picture above is of my kitties,  who are constantly trying to teach me—with mixed results—how important it is to spend time in the “now” with the ones we love.)

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